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SECOND PERSECUTION                        293

she had plotted against the young Emperor. "Heavens, I cannot accuse
the Empress Dowager of something she did not do!" the secretary
exclaimed. He refused to submit, and the investigation could go no
further. But Chang Chun and the Tsai brothers succeeded in casting a
cloud of doubt in the young Emperor's mind about Szema Kuang and
the Yuanyu men.

"Were all the leaders of Yuanyu like that?" the Emperor asked.

"It was what they intended to do," replied Chang Chun," but they
had no opportunity to carry it out."

A great "plot"^ to dethrone the Emperor had been unearthed. The
young man was in a rage. There was even talk of removing the spirit
tablet of the Empress Dowager from the royal ancestral temple, but the
young man had enough sense to stop it. He said to Chang Chun: "Do
you want me never to enter again the ancestral temple of Ingtung?"
Edicts for dismissals, banishments, and confinements flew thick and
fast. Along with Su Tungpo, over thirty of the highest officials of the
Yuanyu regime were variously degraded and exiled. The punishment
assumed unusual proportions and went beyond all historical prece-
dents. Chang Chun's chance for vengeance had come. He went into
it with demoniacal fury for during the regency he himself had suffered
imprisonment. The man who Su Tungpo had predicted could commit
ifturder was now in power. Just as he had been fearlesss in crossing
a narrow wooden plank over a hundred-foot chasm, so he had
1 always dared anything. He had committed adultery with the mistress
of his "clan uncle" at the capital. In danger, he had jumped out of
a window and injured a passenger on the street, but the case had not
been formally prosecuted. During Wang Anshih's regime, while all
the good scholars had lost their jobs in protest, Chang Chun had gone
on from one office to another.

Now as soon as Chang Chun was appointed premier in April, he
called back to power the old gang. This was quite a group of men,
all distinguished for fiendish energy and capacity for intrigue. **Three-
faced Yang" was his great friend. Tsai Chueh was dead, but the others
were living. The double-crosser Huiching returned to power, but still,
with his past reputation, he did not go very far. The other headiman
of Wang Anshih, Tseng Pu, was called back. The evil geniuses of the
northern Sung, the Tsai brothers, stepped into the centre of the political
arena and completed the work of the destruction of the country by
misrule. If there was a period in China's history that could be
characterised as one of callous tyranny and unqualified chaos, it was
the regime under Tsai Ching. The building of an elaborate pleasure
garden for the Emperor probably constituted one of the most groesofne
stories in China's history, gruesome and fantastic because so mtscfe